Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

With the CBD Metro now officially axed, Balmain football icon Benny Elias says the future of the Balmain Leagues Club depends on the proposed multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the site by his company, Rozelle Village.

“The club has a huge amount to lose if the metro is axed. The only way of survival is for the Rozelle Village redevelopment to go ahead,” Mr Elias said.

The original proposal for the Tigers redevelopment, dating back some six years, was drawn up prior to any announcement of a metro line to Rozelle. However, in recent times the likelihood of the metro going ahead has factored into decisions about the project. Consequently, speaking before the announcement of the blueprint, Mr Elias said he could not confirm whether the proposed redevelopment of the site by Rozelle Village would itself be reconsidered if the metro was cancelled.

Prior to the blueprint announcement, Tigers Chief Executive Tim Camiller told the Independent there were measures in place to ensure the Club remained viable if the metro station did not proceed, but that a reconsideration of the building development by Rozelle Village would put enormous pressure on the club.

“The consequences to the Club would be catastrophic,” he said.

The Tigers had previously committed to vacate their premises by April 1 to make way for Sydney Metro Authority to use the location as a construction site for the Rozelle link.

The club agreed to accept compensation from the Authority for the duration of their occupation of the site, following advice from the Government that it could compulsorily acquire the site if the club did not co-operate.

Both Mr Elias and Mr Camiller indicated the club was happy to co-operate since the proposed station, to be located directly outside their premises, would have increased their clientele considerably.

As a result, however, Mr Camiller said the club had since made “irreversible decisions” to vacate the premises and refurbish alternative temporary locations. These decisions have included terminating contracts with partners, as well as temporarily closing the club.

“We’ve had to lay off half our staff and cause significant disruption to our membership,” Mr Camiller said.

Now, with the Authority no longer requiring the site, Tigers run the risk of being left substantially out of pocket.

At the announcement of the transport blueprint, Premier Kristina Keneally said Transport Minister David Campbell would be meeting with Tigers “immediately” to try to reach a settlement regarding costs incurred during the project.

When asked if the dispute could end up in court, Ms Keneally said: “I wouldn’t pre-empt that.”

Meanwhile, the club still faces ongoing opposition to its redevelopment from the Rozelle Residents Action Group, who say it will displace local business, negatively impact the existing shopping precinct, and generate significant traffic problems for the area.

Spokesperson Mark Wallis said what was proposed represented a “gross overdevelopment” and was completely inappropriate for the community.

“It will create a major traffic problem in the area and this has not been properly addressed in the traffic reports,” he said. “The Metro station would destroy the street area, knock down existing buildings and destroy the high street character, displacing around eighteen businesses.”

by Tamara Smallhorn